Devil in the White City


An astounding piece of work, not only because of the tale it tells but also because of the way it is told. In the early 1890s, Chicago wins the bid to stage the next world’s fair and undertakes a mammoth project to build a destination that will come to be called The White City and enlist the work of thousands of artisans and construction workers and all of the greatest architects in America. The rivalry among these great men, the obsessive efforts they make, and the personalities at play is an excellent story in itself. It shows the lead architect and project manager Daniel Burnham as a man who, at the death of his partner, rose to take on more than he ever thought he could… finessing, browbeating and politicking every committee, every special interest group and every overpowering artistic ego… until he turns the Chicago worlds fair of 1893 into a legendary and spectacular event. In an effort to outshine the Eiffel Tower of the Paris World’s Fair only a few years previous, they even come up with and build the first Ferris Wheel, an overwhelming artistic, engineering, and popular success.

But that’s only half the story. Because only a few blocks from the site where the fair is to be built, a handsome, charming and totally evil young man builds a hotel with a far more dire purpose. Simply put, it will bring many, maybe hundreds, of eager fairgoers (mostly young women) to a hideous death. The fair and the monster interplay; he takes advantage of the lure of the midway and the mysterious night secrets of the place. But in the end, long after the fair is laid to rest, L.L. Holmes, the murderer, is tracked down and charged with nine strange and gruesome murders.

What a creative piece of non-fiction storytelling! Five stars for the style, the detail, the research, and the creative thinking that went into this elaborate and totally enthralling work.